A garden update and some thoughts

This is a sort of garden update post.

I started working in my little container garden before 6:30 am. Even small gardens take some time each day and with the horrible summer heat and high humidity here in southeast GA every summer, I try to do outside chores early in the morning or in the evening.

I’ve been enjoying this gardening effort and although it certainly hasn’t produced massive amounts, I did get a whole lot of cherry tomatoes – I had enough to freeze 4 quart size bags, make a pint of sun-dried tomatoes and I filled up a gallon glass container and fermented those, plus I had plenty to eat. I pulled out the last of those determinate cherry tomato plants this morning.

I haven’t had to buy any bell peppers or green onions so far this summer. I dehydrated kale four times and have a gallon container full of kale flakes. I dehydrated lemon basil, sweet basil and oregano. Cucumbers have done okay. I planted two pots of straight eight cucumbers and 6 pots of small pickling cucumbers. I made 6 pints of bread and butter pickles and I have enough small cucumbers picked to make several pints of dill pickles. I froze 4 quarts of green beans, plus cooked some several times. I’ve had plenty of lettuce, squash and green onions.

I have two dragon pepper plants (some sort of cayenne pepper) that are loaded with peppers, which are starting to ripen. I have a jalapeno with a lot of peppers on it too. I picked two very small heads of cabbage (have three left) and once I cleaned them, it came to about the amount of cabbage on a small head of cabbage from the store. It was plenty for a meal of kielbasa and cabbage.

My radishes, carrots, okra haven’t done well. My first strawberries bit the dust, as did my zucchini. I replanted and have four zucchinis growing. I replanted okra three times and I’ve got one okra plant that survived. I replanted radishes. I left the carrots in the container and they’re slowly growing and haven’t flowered yet, so I’m leaving them alone. My last yellow squash bit the dust, but I’m still getting a lot of pattypan squash and today I’m making squash casserole with some of the pattypan, because I have 7 of them sitting on my kitchen counter at the moment.

I planted plenty of flower seeds. I’ve always been more enthusiastic about growing flowers than vegetables.

Mostly, I’ve had fun planting seeds, watching things grow and tending to this little garden every day. I went into this container gardening effort, expecting to plant only a few containers for my patio, but I’m glad I expanded that. I’ve been buying a lot of seeds. I’ve saved two types of bell pepper seeds so far. And now I’m getting ready to start some seeds in July for a fall vegetable garden.

What I learned with using grow bags is the plants dry out quickly in the heat here and I’ll be using mostly plastic containers and larger plastic tote containers for my fall garden. I’ll still use grow bags for herbs and flowers, but I’ll be transitioning toward getting more large plastic containers. I learned that I could manage to take care of more plants, even in the heat, than I thought I could. I plan to put some raised beds together when the weather cools down in the fall and get them ready for next spring.

The violas are still blooming despite the temps being over 100 degrees several days. The five pieces of succulents Me-Su gave me are growing too.

There are three tiny watermelons forming on two plants I started in May, I think. I don’t expect them to amount to anything, but they’re cute.

This is one lantana that I planted years ago in front of my house. It comes back every year and grows out of control. I have vincas in front of my house that reseed on their own too. Not having plants that reseed themselves is a real downside to container gardening.

Beyond providing some food, this gardening effort has brought me a lot of pleasant hours working in the backyard and some coming to terms with major loss in my life.

While I think it’s unrealistic to begin vegetable gardening expecting to grow all your own vegetables or to plant an enormous garden without first having some experience gardening, jumping in does matter. It’s easy to get discouraged or to talk yourself out of attempting to learn new things. Every new kitchen and gardening skill can give you more self-confidence to tackle more.

The lines I’ve hated since I was a kid are when people say they don’t have a “green thumb” or that they’re such a bad cook they can burn water. I had my mother and great-grandmother telling me that I have a green thumb and my mother believed everyone can learn to cook, so she had us measuring, stirring and cooking things from a very early age. I remember plenty of plant failures and the first time I made pancakes by myself, they were burnt on the outside and runny on the inside. I got alarmed and my mother casually told me that I might want to turn the heat down for the next batch.

If growing vegetables or cooking aren’t your jumping off point to being more self-reliant, perhaps learn a new skill like something mechanical or some basic carpentry skills. Knife skills are useful in many dozens of ways, as is learning how to care for knives. Learning more knife skills is on my to-do list. A self-defense course or even starting an exercise program can help with being more self-reliant. There are thousands upon thousands of useful skills to acquire, so it doesn’t have to be gardening or raising animals for food.

My parents gave my youngest brother my mother’s old car that needed the engine rebuilt for his first car. He rebuilt that engine on his own with a little assistance from my Dad and some technical advice from an uncle who was a master mechanic. He was the kid who was always taking everything apart and often he couldn’t get them back together properly, but he did master putting together a V-8 engine kit that he got as a gift for Christmas one year. Everyone can learn new things – at any age.

Many people have been talking about the Great Depression, especially Great Depression cooking, since our economy is headed down the tank. An interesting fact about popular culture during that era was romance novels became very popular, board games were popular, and many people turned to listening to radio programs. Soap operas, comedies and music were popular, not politics. Popular movies weren’t about politics or serious topics – they were escapism with lots of musicals, comedies and romances, with characters living posh lifestyles.

I remain hopeful for America and for the future. Each day can be the start of something good. We don’t have to live in crisis mode everyday to be prepared for emergencies or bad times. I’m following the news, not burying my head in the sand, but finding some balance and looking for some good news matter too.

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